Volunteering at the Shelters

Are you interested in helping to care for Santa Cruz County’s neediest animals?
If so, read on for more information about volunteering with the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.

You make all the difference!
Volunteering can be an emotional experience but we’ve found that joy is the most common emotion you’ll feel. Despite the overwhelming nature of sheltering (the endless flow of animals in need, the difficulty of seeing how poorly our fellow humans can treat companion animals, and the length of time some animals have to wait for their adoptive homes, to name a few), what you can bring to the animals in our care is fun, positive interactions, and tender loving care. No aura of boot camp here! Who better to import a sense of play and home than you, the animal-oriented members of our community?

Age Requirements
If you are 18 years of age or older, you may volunteer to work hands on with the animals at the shelter. If you are 13 –17 years old, you may work with the animals as long as you partner with a parent or legal guardian AT ALL TIMES, including during orientation and trainings. Young people under the age of 13 may not work hands on with the animals but we may have other volunteer opportunities for students needing to fulfill community service requirements. Fostering animals in your home is a great opportunity for people of all ages (resident adults’ consent and participation required, of course).

Community Service
Young people who need to complete 8 hours or less of community service hours for school may want to check into the after-school program through the  Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.

Age requirements above do apply if students want to work with the animals. Students who can’t meet one or more of the requirements to volunteer with the animals hands-on can email the Volunteer Department at erin.conway@santacruzcounty.us to see if there are any other opportunities available. Since the majority of our volunteer opportunities include animal handling, we may not always be able to accommodate those looking for other kinds of volunteer positions at the shelter.

How Do I Become a Volunteer?
1. Fill out our Volunteer Application.
This is an online form, and submitting it creates your volunteer profile in our system.

2. Pre-register for and attend your chosen General Volunteer Orientation (GVO).
At this session you will learn about the shelter and about available volunteer opportunities. Upcoming GVO with open reservations are listed on the sign-up page. Please be aware that doors close promptly at the time the orientation starts. While there may not be a reservation available for a number of weeks out, you are always welcome to come and "fly stand-by" by coming early to see if a seat opens up! Please contact the volunteer coordinator for more information: erin.conway@santacruzcounty.us.

3. Attend a species-specific training.
You’ll be asked to sign up for the species you choose to work with at your General Volunteer Orientation. At your species-specfic training you will get information tailored to working with that specific animal (cats, dogs, or rabbits).

4. Work with a mentor for hands-on experience.
Mentoring with an experienced volunteer is the last step in the process. Here is where the hands-on work with the shelter animals really starts!

5. Schedule your shifts
When you and your mentor believe that you are ready, you can schedule your shifts and begin working. You are now an official volunteer — welcome aboard!

As a volunteer, participate in continuing education workshops to improve your knowledge and animal handling skills.